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See Honeybees at Work: USDA Launches BeeWatch

Click to visit the USDA's 24/7 bee watch camera.

Click to visit the USDA's 24/7 bee watch camera.

At the ribbon cutting of the USDA Headquarters People’s Garden in April 2010 plans were already in place to install a beehive on the roof of the Whitten Building as well as a “bee-cam” so anyone anywhere could learn about bee activity. USDA’s newest ‘buzzing’ residents were welcomed on Earth Day but the bee cam was put on hold. 18 gallons of honey later, that idea has finally come to bee. You can now #USDABeeWatch 24/7 at www.usda.gov/beewatch.

So what will you see on our bee cam? This time of year, the camera – placed several feet from the entrance of the hive – shows female worker bees entering and exiting the hive gathering nectar and pollen (both collected from flowers) to convert into honey. Be on the lookout for bees carrying a load of pollen on their hind legs. As bees groom, they’ll move the pollen onto their back legs creating a pellet of pollen. A small amount of nectar is used to stick the dry pollen together. Read more »

Hawaiian Agriculture Remains Unique

NASS launches its weekly state spotlight series today with Hawaii – where more farmers generate their own electricity than in any other state.  Check back next Thursday for more highlights from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

NASS launches its weekly state spotlight series today with Hawaii – where more farmers generate their own electricity than in any other state. Check back next Thursday for more highlights from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Hawaii may have only 7,000 farms, but our farming community is truly special and unique. For example, it is the only state in the United States where farmers grow taro, pineapples for commercial sales, and coffee. And if having such unique commodities isn’t enough, it is also the state that has the largest percentage of farmers and ranchers participating in renewable energy projects, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. More than 18 percent of our farms produce their own renewable energy on their farms.

The island environment is conducive to renewable energy production. Hawaii has abundant sunshine and steady trade winds which are favorable for investing in renewable energy systems.  As a result many farms can set up photovoltaic panels and windmills to convert the sun and the wind to electricity. Read more »

Starting from Scratch

(From left to right) Dan Whetham, FSA district director, Scuse, Rausch and Della Meder discuss the hardships faced by ranchers who were hit by the Atlas blizzard.

(From left to right) Dan Whetham, FSA district director, Scuse, Rausch and Della Meder discuss the hardships faced by ranchers who were hit by the Atlas blizzard.

This post is part of a disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Wednesday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Richard and Susan Rausch lost nearly 70 percent of their cow-calf operation when Winter Storm Atlas dumped three feet of snow on the western part of South Dakota, killing thousands of cattle across the region. The Rausch’s 300-head of cattle dwindled down to about 90.

“You just can’t put into words what the devastation was like following the blizzard,” said Richard. “The roads were closed from snow drifts, but once we were able to get out with the tractor, there was dead livestock wherever you went. Our neighbor’s livestock was found dead in our yard and our cattle took cover in rough country at the start of the blizzard and they ended up drifting five to six miles away.” Read more »

Western USDA Water Supply Forecast Tracks Melting Snowpack

Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.

Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.

April storms delivered a mix of rain and snow to the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to the latest USDA water supply forecast.

Washington, most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the northern parts of Colorado and Utah, are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC).  Streamflows that are far below normal are forecast for the southern parts of Oregon and Utah, southwestern Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico and western Nevada. Read more »

Forest Service Smokejumpers Part of Disney Magic with New Animated Film

U.S. Forest Service smokejumper Greg Fashano talks with Taryn Brooks and Golan Yosef of Disney Channel’s “Movie Surfers” after landing in a small meadow at Slate Creek on the Shasta Trinity National Forest in California. (U.S. Forest Service/Leo Kay)

U.S. Forest Service smokejumper Greg Fashano talks with Taryn Brooks and Golan Yosef of Disney Channel’s “Movie Surfers” after landing in a small meadow at Slate Creek on the Shasta Trinity National Forest in California. (U.S. Forest Service/Leo Kay)

The U.S. Forest Service and movies-goers have seen agency-managed lands as the backdrop for dozens of motion pictures over the years, but this year it is participating in the magic of Hollywood in a slightly different way – as a creative consultant for the soon-to-be-released “Planes: Fire and Rescue.”

Two film crews from Disney Studios descended on the agency’s Redding Smokejumper Base in northern California the first week of May. They were there to interview and take video footage of the Forest Service’s firefighters in advance of the movie’s release in July.

The plot of the second animated Planes movie revolves around the transition of Dusty Crophopper – voiced by Dane Cook – into the dangerous yet exciting world of wildland firefighting after he learns he can no longer fly in races. Read more »

Cinco de Mayo Event Offers an Opportunity to Promote Healthy Lifestyles

LULAC President Margaret Moran (in white) visits the USDA booth and discusses summer meals with an FNS employee. (photo by Luis Nuno Briones)

LULAC President Margaret Moran (in white) visits the USDA booth and discusses summer meals with an FNS employee. (photo by Luis Nuno Briones)

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo last week, we here at the Food and Nutrition Service had the chance to participate in the 22nd National Cinco de Mayo Festival® Latinos Living Healthy Feria de Salud, sponsored by the League of Latino American Citizens (LULAC). The exciting event, held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., brought together Latino community members, health professionals, major corporations and other stakeholders to highlight the significance of healthy eating and physical activity in the Hispanic community.

We partnered with LULAC to emphasize the importance of a nutritious diet and staying active in our often hectic everyday lives.  The festival provided an opportunity to highlight the many programs FNS has available to help children and low-income families.  Of the thousands of people who arrived at the fairgrounds, many dropped by the FNS-hosted booth to learn about our resources, especially as summer approaches and kids are out of school. Read more »